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Sony VAIO VGN-U70P - Handheld PC

Sony is a company that never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think that it can’t produce another groundbreaking product, it surprises me and does just that. When I looked at the Sony VAIO X505 ultra-slim notebook earlier this year, I was amazed at how small and light it was, while remaining a usable mobile tool. But with the VAIO Type U, Sony has created a mobile computer that makes even the X505 look big.

The Type U is about the size of an early PDA like the ill fated Apple Newton – exact dimensions are 167 x 110 x 28mm (WxHxD), with a weight of 550g. However, whereas a PDA is a device that’s designed to do some of what a PC can do, the VAIO Type U actually IS a PC. That’s right, despite the small dimensions, there’s a complete set of PC components hiding inside that brushed silver and black chassis.

Inside the Type U is a 1GHz Intel Pentium M CPU backed up by 512MB of RAM, although the integrated graphics use will use a minimum of 8MB of that. There’s a 20GB hard disk, which is small by modern notebook standards, but you’ve got to remember how much Sony has had to squeeze into such a small casing.

Dominating the front of the Type U is the 5in TFT screen. With a resolution of 800 x 600, it’s a little low by notebook standards but very high by PDA standards. The screen is very bright and vibrant, and the viewing angle is surprisingly good, considering that the device is going to be directly in front of you when you’re using it. That said, the wide viewing angle will help when you want to show your new, tiny PC off to your friends I guess. The screen is also touch sensitive which is pretty handy, but strangely the Type U doesn’t come with any kind of stylus to make the most of this feature.

Pointer manipulation comes courtesy of a thumb stick that brings back memories of the Toshiba Libretto, which used a similar device imbedded in its lid. Pressing the thumb stick inwards is equivalent to pressing the left mouse button, while at the top left corner of the fascia is a group of three buttons that represent the left and right mouse buttons, along with a scroll lock button. The latter is particularly useful when you’re scrolling through web pages. Above the thumb stick is a four-way rocker pad that serves as your cursor keys, while there’s a button in the centre that selects the highlighted option.

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